GERMAN U-BOATS: WW1

Merlindown has made several German U-Boat discoveries over the years and here we present a re-discovery of two World War 1 U-Boats which have been lying forgotten in the soft mud of Slede Creek. Later, we will add a posting regarding another previously-unknown World War 2 U-Boat recently discovered by Merlindown off the Durham coast.

Under the terms of Article XXI of the Armistice, signed at the end of the First World War, Germany were required to immediately surrender all of their sea-going vessels, including submarines. Those in home waters were brought into the submarine base at Harwich, and on 21st November 1918 the first batch of ten U-Boats arrived. These were under the control of British crews flying the White Ensign from the conning towers of the U-Boats. Over the next two weeks, 122 submarines and other associated craft arrived in Harwich. The German crews were returned to their own country.

It seems that 26 of the submarines were purchased by a cement works for their diesel engines and generators, and afterwards the hulls were bought by a scrap company who, in 1920, moored them in the River Medway awaiting scrapping. Unfortunately, the price of scrap steel plummeted, and in 1923 the scrap dealer went bankrupt before the submarines could be broken up.

Of these 26, only three remain visible on the Medway mud flats. There doesn’t seem to be any record of the other 23, but it has been suggested that they may have been subsequently towed away for scrapping. Alternatively, they may have rotted away and slipped beneath the mud. Merlindown recently scanned the area in question and found that there were indeed other remains deeply embedded at the bottom of the estuary. These were generally broken sections of U-Boats, but sections of other types of vessels appear to be present. There could be more submarines located up or around the creeks.

One of the three U-Boats sits on its own in Damhead Creek, near Humble Bee Creek, East Hoo, and was recently re-discovered and photographed by other parties, details of which appeared in the press at the time. However, the other two are some 1,400 feet away, and lie close together in Slede Creek, near Oakham Ness Jetty, and were seemingly-ignored at the time. There is not a lot left of the two Slede Creek U-Boats following further salvage operations during World War 2, but there is more of them below the mud than can normally be observed. It was only the upper works and engines that had been salvaged.

German-U-Boat-0043Merlindown deepscan image (left) showing both U-Boats in relation to each other in Slede Creek.

German-U-Boat-0048Merlindown deepscan image (right) showing the bottom left submarine, its U-Boat profile well defined and the starboard bow hydroplane clearly visible.

German-U-Boat-0049Merlindown deepscan image (left) showing collective vessels and submarine sections lying close by, the surface visible whole U-Boat which lies off towards the top right.